Elmhurst responds to Government consultation on Building Regulation enforcement

Following the horrors of Grenfell Tower, and the report from Dame Judith Hackitt that followed, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has responded in the form of a consultation on how best to improve safety and minimise the risk of fire in high rise buildings.

Despite being given just 5 weeks to wade through the consultation’s 6 chapters and 192 pages, we have prepared and submitted our response before the 11.15pm deadline on 31st July 2019.

Elmhurst Energy are pleased that MHCLG Government are seeking a consultation on the future of building regulation compliance and we are delighted to have been given the opportunity to contribute. The essence of our response can be summarised into a set of principles, many of which came from the Hackitt report, and the key factors that we think should be considered.

The principles that run throughout our response are:

  • It should be remembered that fire kills but so does noncompliance with aspects of building regulations such as electrical safety and fuel poverty (and overheating) caused by inefficient buildings.  
  • Any strategy should create a single framework with elements that can be scaled back for low risk construction.
  • No builder should be able to choose their own regulator.
  • Enforcement between requirements of the regulations should be balanced so not to distort the emphasis and overlook aspects that may not kill, but are still very important.
  • Regulations should be outcome based so they remove the subjectivity of compliance and to create a feedback loop to continually improve the methodologies used in setting regulations and tools used in the design process, such as SAP.
  • The implementation (transition) period for new regulations must be kept to a minimum and not extended by virtue of planning.
  • The system should give public visibility to regulatory and supporting documentation. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
  • Timely guidance is needed to cater for the introduction of new technologies and the impact they might have on the building e.g. battery storage and charging of electric vehicles

    Factors to consider: 

    Framework - The new regulatory framework should be designed to cater for all building works with principles of responsibility and enforcement that are applied in a common way, scaled by the risk.

    Responsibility  - The responsibility for building regulation compliance should always be with the builder, whether that is a new porch on an existing home or a new build high rise residential building. Builders must, based upon their own competence and the risks of the building works, sign off compliance against all appropriate parts of the building regulations. Where proving compliance is beyond their competence then the builder may contract with expertise to provide external opinion on compliance. Such contractors shall be controlled through Competence Persons Schemes or similar.

    Statements of conformity - Statements of conformity, signed to address each part of the regulations, should be submitted to the central regulator at key stages of the build, together with details of the work done and supporting independent testing and advice on which compliance was measured.

    Oversight - On a risk based approach (based upon building type, builder experience, level of independent expertise employed by the builder, systems installed etc.) the Regulator should consider what regulatory involvement is necessary and inspect elements, or commission others to inspect on their behalf, to ensure compliance has been achieved.  If problems arise, from the regulatory inspection, from complaints or from building failure, the builder is always accountable but the use of independent competent and registered contractors to support compliance statements may mitigate responsibility

    Visibility - Statement of conformity should be placed in a central repository (similar to the Data Warehouse designed and built for PAS 2035) which is accessible by all authorised stakeholders (including regulators, fire brigade and building owners) to provide both information and link to the accountable person responsible for declaring regulatory compliance.

    Guidance - Regulations should remain vertical in nature (Part A Structure, Part B Fire etc) but be limited to the performance based outcomes required. Guidance can be provided horizontally, by activity (e.g. Guidance on Building regulations that might apply when building a house extension) which signpost back to the regulations.

    To read the full Elmhurst response click here.

    Article published: 31st July 2019

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